I walked the pasture yesterday with the sheep enjoyed seeing them in their full winter fleeces. Browns, goldens (mioget in Shetland terms), blacks and whites – a rainbow of natural colors.As the days start to lengthen I can feel it and the sheep must as well because I can see little tufts of wool pulling away from some of them. This is referred to as “the rise”, an old trait that the primitive breeds maintain that is similar to shedding. On Shetland the people would “roo” their sheep after gathering them in a contained space. Rooing is hand plucking the wool. These days most sheep, inlcuding Shetlands, are sheared- but some shepherds will still hand pluck – I did this several years ago with one of my sheep, Dixie. She stood quietly while I gently pulled the wool from around her neck and shoulders. It was the nicest, softest wool since there were no blunt cut ends and likely the coarser fibers, if there were any, were left behind. Right now I am spinning it up into very soft yarn. So it’s time to call my shearer, but for now, I think I’ll roo Dixie again. Check back for a photo of Dixie and the yarn I am spinning from her previous fleece.
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Our most recent event on the farm was shearing day. For most farms, the day before market is harvest day. However, unlike other traditional farms, once a year our harvest consists of gathering the wool from all our Shetland sheep. We have 19 sheep including ewes, lambs, ram lambs and full-grown rams. For this particular event we brought in a truly wonderful professional shearer named Elizabeth. She has been at the job for over 5 years and lives nearby on Bainbridge Island. We can definitely count on the best quality of work with this woman – and we make sure we take care of her and our friends who volunteer for the day by providing them with a mid-day meal.
The process begins with trimming the sheep’s hooves; a pedicure you may call it. The shearer will then work for about 10-15 minutes on each sheep cutting off all the wool. Before we release them back into the pasture, we give each one a dose of garlic for worming and check their overall body condition, especially the pregnant sheep of which we have six this year. After the sheep are back in pasture, we then take the fleece outside and skirt the fleece for about 10-15 minutes, depending on when the next fleece is ready to be worked on. This is to discard any short cuts and vegetation that may remain within the wool.
This year we put in new hay feeders to prevent the fleeces from becoming contaminated, therefore we have very clean fleeces and of a higher quality than in previous years. Some of our fleeces will go to sheep shows for judging and sale this year. Other fleeces will be processed locally by Taylored Fibers into roving. Roving is a product that we sell to handspinners for spinning into yarn.
We have a variety of colors such as dark brown, carmel, white, black, and grey. If you are a handspinner interested in spinning a lovely little Shetland fleece contact us by clicking on the “Products for Sale” tab.
These past few weeks, during the cold wintery weather, we have been thinking about spring lambs, so has our lead ram Shuler (pictured above). It is the time of year to put the ewes and rams together, and voila lambs 145 days later! First, however, we have to choose who will be bred, who pairs up with which ram based on the qualities of wool and other important characteristics we are breeding for i.e. soft wool, good mothers, sheep that do well on an organic pasture system etc. This year 2 of our rams are being used and a 3rd from a friend’s farm is on loan for some fresh genetics. Each ram has his own stratgies for impressing his group of ladies and it’s best if we just stay out of the way.
Below is Bjorn he is an 8 month old ram we are borrowing from our friend Marilyn Maxwell. We are looking to obtain new genetics, along with white fleeces.
Below is Shuler who likes to run the show along with impressing the ladies with his barn remodeling skills. He has given us beautiful lambs with soft chocolate brown fleeces.
To keep our thoughts positive during this dark and unexpectedly cold winter solstice, we remind ourselves that we will have adorable dark chocolate and white chocolate lambs come May.